Crash-a-palooza – Azerbaijan GP 2018

The Azerbaijan GP was easily the best race of the season thus far. Two safety cars, a completely unexpected top-3 and the general madness on track really made this an enjoyable watch.

The Top-10:

  1. Lewis HamiltonHamilton did stay in the top-5 for the entire race but the fact that he was able to pull away with a victory was a small miracle to say the least, especially since the second safety car seemed to set his team-mate up with an easy win. Still, this is Hamilton’s first win of 2018 and it was enough to set him at the top of the rankings. It looks like Lewis is finally done hibernating.
  2. Kimi RäikkönenI of course can’t help but to take a little bit of pleasure out of the fact that Räikkönen is the only man in the top-5 who’s finished on a podium in every race he’s finished this year. Räikkönen was not poised for a podium as he and Ocon hit each other on the opening lap. Räikkönen even had his front wing replaced but the race’s ending madness finally opened the way for him to take the second place. Well done, Kimi!
  3. Sergio PerezAfter a down-right underwhelming start to the season, Perez jumped straight into the drivers’ top-10 with his first podium (and first point-scoring) finish of the season. Perez did nothing hot-headed or irrational the whole race while cars around him dropped like flies due to mistakes in judgement. Congrats, Cheko! You deserve it.

Sebastian Vettel took home 4th, a position he was reduced to after the re-start behind Bottas. Vettel went wide and got a flat spot on his tyre which made it easy for Perez to catch up and overtake him. Still, Ferrari maintain their points lead over Mercedes thanks to this finish, so at least it wasn’t a total loss.

Carlos Sainz also fought valiantly for his position against the Red Bulls, showing the what-four. It’s a shame he was the only Renault to score points in this race but no flies on him.

Sauber’s rookie Charles Leclerc also scored his first championship points ever as 6th. Granted this took a bit of luck, but considering Leclerc started from grid-13, this was not a bad result by any measure. Congratulations! With this result Sauber is even showing up Haas in the points.

Fernando Alonso can be equally proud for having scored at all given that during the opening lap’s madness, he hit Sergey Sirotkin, eventually suffering a tyre puncture on both of his right-side tyres. Yet he made it to the pits and was able to finish 7th. With Vandoorne bringing the second McLaren home on 9th, this was another passable race weekend for the recovering classic constructor.

Williams also finally broke out of the zero-points club with Lance Stroll achieving an 8th place finish and four points for the team.

And finally, after all the hard time I’ve given the grid’s only Kiwi, Brendon Hartley has finally scored his first ever championship point in Formula Ones at 10th. Having started from the second-to-last grid this was not a bad result at all. Well done, Brendon!

Golden Pineapple Award: Marcus Ericsson, Sauber

Ericsson achieves his first Golden Pineapple of the season, immediately after scoring Sauber’s first points in the previous race. While Marcus’s chances were not auspicious at the start of the race, we have to remember how many drivers lost points and positions today to simple errors in judgement. So in this case, Ericsson’s 11th place finish isn’t a bad result at all.

Drop-out count: 7

A record high for this season. Where to begin?

Well, of course on the opening lap Esteban Ocon and Kimi Räikkönen clashed, leading to the second Force India retiring and causing the first safety car session in the process. On the same opening lap, there were a series of close calls which unfortunately led to Sergey Sirotkin getting clipped by an over-taking Alonso, destroying Sirotkin’s front tyre.

After the exciting Red Bull vs. Renault match-up, Nico Hülkenberg‘s concentration unfortunately lapsed and he hit track walls, destroying his own rear wheel.

The last set of incidents were quite astounding. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fighting each other over their order in the top-5. Near the end of the race, Verstappen became rear-ended by Ricciardo, taking both Red Bulls out of the race and resulting in a second safety car session. During the safety car Romain Grosjean also crashed his car while he was trying to warm up his tyres.

And lastly and most regrettably, after being gifted the race lead by a well-timed pit stop under the safety car and having Vettel ruin his tyres on a bad over-take attempt, Valtteri Bottas was on his way to an easy victory when he suddenly drove over a piece of carbon-fibre left over from the Red Bull clash, suffered a tyre puncture only a couple of laps before the chequered flag and was forced to retire. A sad result for Valtteri after such a promising race.

Back of the Lot News:

Pierre Gasly seems to have really lost his mojo in this race, losing out to his team-mate by being second-to-last.

Dead Last: Kevin MagnussenToday was not a good day for Haas. Magnussen really didn’t seem to be able to give a decent fight. Better luck next time, Kev!